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The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said a yes vote among its members, including those working on the LNER services, could lead to the biggest rail strike in modern history.
The union said Network Rail is planning to cut at least 2,500 safety-critical maintenance jobs as part of a £2 billion reduction in spending on the network, while workers at train operators have been subject to pay freezes and changes to their terms and conditions.
The ballot opens on April 26 and closes on May 24 so strike action could begin in June.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "Railway workers have had to contend with pay freezes, the prospect of losing their jobs and repeated attacks on their terms and conditions.
"Train operating companies have praised our members for being key workers during the pandemic but have refused to keep staff pay in line with inflation and soaring living costs.
"As a result, thousands of railway workers have seen their living standards plummet and have run out of patience.
"A national rail strike will bring the country to a standstill, but our members' livelihoods and passenger safety are our priorities."
The ballot will be among RMT members on Network Rail and Chiltern Railways, Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern Railway, South Western Railway, Island Line, GTR (including Gatwick Express), Transpennine Express, Avanti West Coast, and West Midlands Trains.
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail's regional director, said: "Our railway has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and even as passenger numbers start to recover, we know travel habits and passenger demand have changed and the industry has to change too.
"We cannot keep relying on Government handouts, and so we must work together with train operators and our trades unions to save millions of pounds and deliver a more efficient railway.
"We are disappointed that the RMT has taken this decision and urge them again to work with us, not against us, as we build an affordable railway fit for the future."